According to a new UNICEF report, published on the occasion of Saturday’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM (female genital mutilation), more than 200 million women and girls in 30 countries are living with the aftermath of the practice — 70 million more people than previously believed. More than half of the victims live in only three countries — Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia — and the highest rates among women between the ages of 15 and 49 are found in Somalia, Guinea, and Djibouti. “In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “We must all accelerate efforts — governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families — to eliminate the practice.” While FGM is illegal in many countries and carries serious health risks such as infections, painful scarring, long-term disabilities or even death, it persists in many communities where it is seen as a cultural tradition. While there has been a decline in the rate of FGM in several countries, it remains a “global concern,” according to UNICEF, as population growth could cause the number of cases to increases over the next 15 years. However, the organization hopes to be able to largely squelch the practice by 2030 with the help of governments, communities, and religious leaders. “Determining the magnitude of female genital mutilation is essential to eliminating the practice,” said Rao Gupta. “When governments collect and publish national statistics on FGM they are better placed to understand the extent of the issue and accelerate efforts to protect the rights of millions of girls and women.”
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